MAMARONECK, N.Y. – A group of parents filed a lawsuit Wednesday, April 23, against the Mamaroneck Board of Education and schools superintendent challenging the legality of a recent policy change that would allow the district to provide certain high school students public transit passes instead of yellow bus service.
The district has said the policy change was necessary to help reduce its expenses by more than $2 million to meet the state-mandated cap on the property tax levy and that it will save an estimated $98,000 annually starting in 2014-2015.
The policy would affect more than 60 of the 372 students who live in the district but attend private or parochial schools. Fairness for all Kids, the parent group who filed the Article 78 proceeding, said it discriminates against private and parochial school students.
"Taking legal action is a reluctant last step that parents feel they have been forced into by a School District that has refused to hear our concerns or answer direct questions about their misguided policy," the group said.
However, the school district says the policy applies to all students in grades nine through 12, and that it doesn’t provide yellow bus service to public school students in the same grades, other than students with disabilities or special needs.
Public schools are allowed to require nonpublic school students to use public transit as long as it's the same for public and nonpublic students, according to the state Education Department website.
"The petition filed contains numerous factual and legal inaccuracies, and we will be vigorously opposing it," Schools Superintendent Robert Shaps said. "Our change in policy was made in consultation with our legal counsel and is based on numerous decisions by the Commissioner of Education over the past 20 years upholding a district's ability to use public transportation to meet its obligation under the law to transport students to school."
Rye Neck and Pelham use public transit passes for some students, Shaps said.
The parent petition seeks no monetary damages and would cost the district a one-time expense.
Matthew Mancino, of Larchmont, attends Iona Prep in New Rochelle, and will have to take two buses and walk to get to school without the yellow bus service. His father, Angelo, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said his commute would be one hour and 10 minutes.
“I just can’t imagine it having anything but an adverse effect,” Angelo told Daily Voice.
The parent group said some of the public transit routes are “so onerous and so unsafe that few, if any, parents could allow their children to take them.”
For more information on the nondistrict student transportation, visit the school website.